Most say the nation is on the wrong track, including the Democrats: AP-NORC poll

by Kerry G. Alvarez

WASHINGTON – An overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the US is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, according to a new poll showing deep pessimism about the economy plaguing President Joe Biden.

According to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 85 percent of American adults say the country is on the wrong track, and 79% describe the economy as bad. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to vote for Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

Inflation has consistently overshadowed the healthy unemployment rate of 3.6% as a focal point for Americans dealing with high gas and food prices. Even among Democrats, 67% say economic conditions are bad.

“He’s trying his best — I can’t say he’s doing a good job,” said Chuck McClain, 74. “But his opposition is so bad. I don’t feel like the Democratic Congress is doing enough.”

Most say the nation is on the wrong track, including the Democrats: AP-NORC poll

The Las Vegas resident is a loyal Democrat who said he wouldn’t miss an election. Still, he said the price of gas and groceries, the Russian war in Ukraine, and the country’s deep political divisions had left more Americans feeling that Washington was not responding to their needs.

“My wife and I are very frustrated with where the country is going, and we don’t have much hope that the political end of it will get any better,” he said.

The poll shows that only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s overall leadership, while 60% disapprove. His rating fell to the lowest point of his presidency last month and remains at that level. The Democratic president has been hit even harder by the economy, with 69% saying they disapprove of him on this point. Among Democrats, 43% disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy.

Only 14% say things are moving in the right direction, down slightly from 21% in May and 29% in April. In the first half of 2021, about half of Americans said the country was moving in the right direction, a number that has steadily declined over the past year.

Dorothy Vaudo, 66, said she voted for Biden in 2020 but planned to change allegiances this year.

“I’m a Democrat, so I had to vote Democrat, but that’s going to change,” said the Martin County, North Carolina native.

In recent weeks, Americans have had even worse economic news: inflation continued to rise, interest rates rose dramatically, and the S&P 500 entered a bear market as many serious economists predicted a recession. Still, consumer spending has broadly kept pace, and hiring continues to be brisk, a sign that families and businesses have withstood some economic pain.

In an interview this month with the AP, Biden traced his decline in popularity to surges in gas prices that started a year ago. He said prices had increased further with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. But he rejected claims by Republican lawmakers and some major economists that his $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package last year contributed to inflation, noting that price hikes were a global phenomenon.

“We are in a stronger position than any country in the world to overcome this inflation,” Biden said. “If it’s my fault, why is it like this in every other major industrialized country in the world that inflation is higher?”

Douglass Gavilan, a 26-year-old in Miami, is concerned about the “sky-high” prices and rent he sees in his community. The cost of lodging is roughly a third of the US consumer price index, so the rise in rents and house prices is beginning to strain budgets, even for many people living where there are high employment levels.

“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to live here in a few years,” Gavilan said. “I have no faith in the economy.”

Although he does not identify with any political party, Gavilan voted for Biden in 2020. He doesn’t think Biden has proposed anything to make a meaningful difference in his life, but he does think the president is in a difficult position.

“He can do very little without everyone blaming him for everything,” Gavilan said.

The poll was conducted Thursday through Monday, with many interviews after the Supreme Court on Friday struck down Roe v. Wade and allowed states to ban abortion — a decision that a majority of the American people have opposed in previous polls, including contributing to the ongoing slump in the national mood.

National discontent is twofold, the poll shows. Ninety-two percent of Republicans and 78% of Democrats say the country is heading in the wrong direction. Since last month, the percentage of Democrats who say the government is going in the wrong direction has risen from 66%.

Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic remains a relatively bright spot, with 53% of Americans saying they approve of his handling of that issue. On the other hand, only 36% say they approve of Biden’s handling of gun policies; 62% disapprove.

But the economy is what is the top priority for many Americans.

Curtis Musser, 57, a chemistry teacher from Clermont, Florida, said he expects a recession, although he thinks it will be mild.

Musser said many Americans feel at the mercy of events beyond their control, whether the pandemic, Federal Reserve rate hikes, the war in Europe, or political hostilities in the US.

“I feel a little helpless as an individual,” he said. “I don’t control the markets, and you can’t guess what the markets will do because you don’t know what the Fed will do. You don’t know what Congress is going to do. You don’t know what Vladimir Putin is going to do.”

The poll of 1,053 adults was conducted June 23-27 using a sample from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, designed to represent the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus four percentage points.

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